The Determinants of Health

In our everyday life, we can acknowledge the many factors affecting our short and long-term health: what and how we eat, the quality of the air we breathe, the institutions that ensure our safety and our well-being, our personal and professional background, and many more. An approach through the determinants of health builds a network of knowledge, without favouring one perspective over another, to promote a global vision of health and of research done on human health – a good start for better global (and local!) health policies.

The determinants of health form our submission criteria.

You can also find complementary information about the Determinants of Health by visiting the Public Health Agency of Canada’s or the World Health Organization’s websites.

Summary of main characteristics

Income and Social Status

“High income determines living conditions such as safe housing and ability to buy sufficient good food. The healthiest populations are those in societies which are prosperous and have an equitable distribution of wealth.”

Social Support Networks

“[…] social support networks could be very important in helping people solve problems and deal with adversity, as well as in maintaining a sense of mastery and control over life circumstances.”

Education and Literacy

“Education contributes to health and prosperity by equipping people with knowledge and skills for problem solving, and helps provide a sense of control and mastery over life circumstances.”

Employment/Working Conditions

“People who have more control over their work circumstances and fewer stress related demands of the job are healthier and often live longer than those in more stressful or riskier work and activities.”

Social Environments

“Civic vitality refers to the strength of social networks within a community, region, province or country. It is reflected in the institutions, organizations and informal giving practices that people create to share resources and build attachments with others.”

Physical Environments

“At certain levels of exposure, contaminants in our air, water, food and soil can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including cancer, birth defects, respiratory illness and gastrointestinal ailments.”

Personal Health Practices and Coping Skills

“Personal Health Practices and Coping Skills refer to those actions by which individuals can prevent diseases and promote self-care, cope with challenges, and develop self-reliance, solve problems and make choices that enhance health.”

Healthy Child Development

“New evidence on the effects of early experiences on brain development, school readiness and health in later life has sparked a growing consensus about early child development as a powerful determinant of health in its own right.”

Biology and Genetic Endowment

“The basic biology and organic make-up of the human body are a fundamental determinant of health.”

Health Services

“Health services, particularly those designed to maintain and promote health, to prevent disease, and to restore health and function contribute to population health. The health services continuum of care includes treatment and secondary prevention.”


“Gender refers to the array of society-determined roles, personality traits, attitudes, behaviours, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to the two sexes on a differential basis. “Gendered” norms influence the health system’s practices and priorities. Many health issues are a function of gender-based social status or roles.”


“Some persons or groups may face additional health risks due to a socio-economic environment, which is largely determined by dominant cultural values that contribute to the perpetuation of conditions such as marginalization, stigmatization, loss or devaluation of language and culture and lack of access to culturally appropriate health care and services.”

Source : CANADA. 2003. “What Makes Canadians Healthy or Unhealthy?” on the website of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Last modified on 2003-06-16. Consulted on 2012-05-13. URL:

Revue interdisciplinaire des sciences de la santé – Interdisciplinary Journal of Health Sciences